It’s safe to say that one of the delights a writer can have, apart from uninterrupted time to write, is spending time with other writers. Not just any writers, of course, but writers who are respected by their peers, successfully published writers, writers who can speak about their journey, share tips, encourage others to follow their dream, and writers who can perform and entertain.
You find all this and more at writers festivals and recently through the generosity of my friend Lisa Hill I was gifted a ticket to the Bendigo Writers’ Festival. Bliss indeed – until the dreaded winter flu virus decided to strike. The best laid plans not only stalled but shattered.
Today, I managed to stay vertical for a few hours and teach my lovely Monday class who were considerate of my lack of verve and sympathised that over the weekend as I nursed a body aching with raging temperatures, a head threatening to explode and a cough more suited to a tuberculosis ward I felt very sorry for myself indeed!
Thank goodness Lisa, who presented at the festival interviewing two authors,(Lily Yulianti Farid and Roger McDonald) is an excellent writer and by reading her blog, although salt in a still open wound, I appreciated the delights of an ideal weekend for those who love writing and reading.
The Australian Government website suggests writers festivals help close the gap of isolation:
Reading is essentially solitary. Writing is essentially solitary. Though we connect with others far away through our reading and writing we tend not to meet them face to face. We are always one step away. Is this the reason why writers’ festivals are so popular? They invite us to close that gap and meet in person.
The statistics on the website haven’t been updated since 2012, but they do tell us that in 1962 there was only one writers’ festival in Australia and by 2012 there were over 30, with the Sydney Writers’ Festival the third largest of its kind in the world. An amazing feat considering Australia has such a small population compared to continents sharing a similar literary tradition like North America, UK and Europe.
The increase in blogging and social media has also made writers festivals all the more important. At a time when it is possible for almost anyone in the Western world to be published and read on a daily basis, never before has it been so important to gather together to hear prose and poetry read aloud alongside radical and world-illuminating ideas.
Jonathan Holloway, Artistic director, Perth International Arts Festival
At writers festivals you get the chance to hear your favourite authors read their work, discuss their inspiration, share their writing secrets. Your admiration may be reinforced, or you may be disappointed or you may be able to pick up an autographed copy of a book for yourself or as a gift. Readers meet authors, writers meet their audience, the connection and communication is rarely boring and in many cases festivals are a hub of exciting exchanges of ideas.
We reach across the written word – in books or newspapers, magazines, eReaders or iPads – to explore ideas, to start arguments, to rail against injustice, to expose each other, to console each other and to discover our common ground. We read because we are interested in ideas.
Danielle Benda, Program Manager of Perth Writers Festival 2012
Last year, again courtesy of Lisa, I was able to attend the Stonnington Literary Festival when she lead a lively panel discussion on a theme of “the glittering facade” with Paddy O’Reilly (The Wonders), Catherine Harris (The Family Men), and Nicole Hayes (The Whole of My World).
On any given weekend, across Australia there will be people coming together to celebrate the written word. There are boutique festivals: Emerging Writers, Noosa Long Weekend, Write Around the Murray, National Young Writers, festivals celebrating Indigenous Writers, Poets and even online festivals acknowledging the advance of digital technology.
Discussion panels, live music, poetry slams, comedy debates, festivals of ideas, short plays – so many ways the written and spoken word can entertain and inspire – and all to a backdrop of amazing scenery, delicious food and bottomless wine glasses or coffee cups with endless conversation…
I’ll stop now because I’m beginning to feel miserable again for such a lost weekend. Although I was nurtured and loved by my beautiful daughters who fussed over me just as I remember my mother looking after me when I was little. That’s the plus side of being ill – the comforting hands, the meals in bed, the lazing on the couch all worries aside as your body fights for recovery. I experienced that and more, along with gorgeous roses to remind me that spring will soon be here and winter blues dispelled!
And the Melbourne Writers Festival is coming soon – fingers crossed I’ll get my energy back by then because the girls and I have tickets to a session to hear Rob Thomas, the writer of Veronica Mars – lightning better not strike twice!